- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 11, 2002

From combined dispatches

The European Union yesterday criticized a deal between the United States and Romania to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution by the new International Criminal Court.

"It's a bad political signal. We regret Romania's decision," a spokesman for the European Commission, the executive body of the EU, told the Agence France-Presse news service.

Apart from Romania, only Israel so far has signed such a bilateral accord with Washington.

The United States is vehemently opposed to the new International Criminal Court (ICC), which it fears will be turned into a political instrument to target U.S. servicemen on missions abroad.

The ICC is the first permanent tribunal set up to try genocide and war crimes. It was created on July 1 in The Hague.

The State Department this month began warning foreign governments they could lose U.S. military aid if they fail to promise to protect American peacekeepers from the court. U.S. embassies are under instruction to negotiate agreements with foreign governments to shield U.S. soldiers from ICC jurisdiction.

In Washington, ambassadors from several countries were called to the department during the past two weeks to remind them that President Bush is authorized under the newly passed antiterrorism law to suspend U.S. military assistance.

The law exempts close U.S. allies, including members of NATO, Japan, South Korea and Australia.

"Our concerns about Americans being engulfed in politically charged situations is something we have been quite clear about," State Department spokesman Philip T. Reeker told the Associated Press. "That's why we have been negotiating agreements."

At the same time, he said, the United States was dedicated to protecting human rights and punishing crimes against humanity. "Our record on that remains unmatched," Mr. Reeker said.

The court was established to try individuals charged with genocide and other crimes against humanity. The administration says it opposes the court because it could subject Americans to politically motivated prosecution.

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